Research with impact: Prof. Zubin Austin recognized by U of T for his leading work

Seven U of T scholars whose work has transformed everyday lives of people in Canada and around the world have a new accolade to add to their resumés – they’re winners of the inaugural University of Toronto President’s Impact Awards.

Among this year’s recipients is Zubin Austin, professor and Koffler Research Chair at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy. His leading work focuses on professional and personal development in the healthcare workforce, with emphasis on integrating Internationally Educated Health Professionals (IEHP).

“This is a great honour for me,” says professor Austin. “In my work, I attempt to apply evidence-informed practices to develop and implement educational programs in healthcare. In turn this supports policy makers, educators and employers by building on these individuals' previous knowledge, skills and competencies rather than requiring they start again from the beginning. Building these kinds of coalitions, and using best practices to help different groups find common ground, has – I hope – made a positive difference for internationally educated health professionals.” 

Professor Austin’s accomplishments in leading a diverse coalition of organizations and individuals resulted in establishment of the International Pharmacy Graduate (IPG) Program at the University of Toronto. Working closely with Marie Rocchi, academic director for the IPG program, this was one of the first bridging education programs in Canada and internationally. The program used U of T curriculum, assessments, learning supports, mentors, and practice sites to support integration into the Canadian workforce. Not only did it aim to minimize "brain waste" associated with internationally trained professionals' lack of success in the licensure process, it also sought to enhance the skills of IPGs by building on their previous experiences within a Canadian context.

Today, over 1000 pharmacists have graduated from this program and entered practice in Canada, providing care to tens of thousands of patients. IPG programs are now offered in British Columbia, Alberta, and satellite versions have been delivered in Cairo, Egypt. Its value to the pharmacy profession was of such significance that in 2010, Walmart Canada provided a multi-million dollar donation to the Faculty of Pharmacy to support the program.

“We are very proud of professor Austin’s accomplishments,” says Heather Boon, dean of the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy. “He has helped establish Canada's leadership in fostering inclusive workplaces that value the contributions of immigrants with professional qualifications. His ability to translate rigorous research into education and tools to support this group of professionals has had a transformational impact on the lives of thousands who have struggled to navigate the complex licensure process in Canada, and who now are able to contribute more fully to their professions and their new country.”

With the award, professor Austin will receive $10,000 a year for five years to support his research. He will also join the newly created President’s Impact Academy, which will advise the vice-president, research and innovation, about research impact and its communications. They will also serve as advocates for sustained research and innovation impact within and outside the university. Professor Zubin has also received previous recognition through U of T’s President's Teaching Award and is a member of the President’s Teaching Academy.